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Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth is a Nintendo 3DSSpin-Off of, interestingly, two franchises: Atlus' Persona and Etrian Odyssey games. The story is written by members of the Team Persona development group, and features a Cross Over between the casts of Persona 3 and Persona 4. But other aspects, such as gameplay and visual design, are taken directly fromEtrian Odyssey. In fact, most of the production staff is from the Etrian Odyssey team, including director Kazuya Niinou and character artist Yuji Himukai.The story revolves around a mysterious tower that is said to bring death to whoever hears its bell. When the tower appears at both Gekkoukan High School in the past and Yasogami High School in the future, the casts of Persona 3 and Persona 4 team up across time to investigate the tower's labyrinth. Along the way, they meet two brand new characters, Zen and Rei, who are connected to the tower.The game was released in Japan on June 5th, 2014, in America on November 25, 2014, and in Europe on November 27, 2014.
Accidental Truth: While the Investigation Team trolls Rei about Alice in Wonderland, Yukiko claims it ends with Alice punching the Queen of Hearts, and treasure falling out while a dog barks. They later fight the Queen of Hearts, who drops loot, and they're introduced to SEES (including their dog Koromaru) in the process.
Adaptational Badass: The two heros are restricted to their starting Personas in this game, so they're a lot stronger here than in their original appearences.
Adaptational Wimp: Every Persona not belonging to a party member is restricted to being a sub-persona here, meaning they have no stats of their own and only confer bonuses to HP and SP. Downplayed in that they still learn skills which can be used by anyone who equips them. A few Personas stand out though, Kaguya goes from being the ultimate Persona of the Aeon Arcana to a mid-level Moon Arcana Persona, for example.
Animal Motifs: There's lots of spider and web imagery in the game, representing the labyrinth itself and how the characters are trapped in the strange world.
Another Side, Another Story: Elements of the story will change depending on if you choose to start with the Persona 3 or the Persona 4 cast.
Big Brother Instinct: Zen refuses to leave Rei's side, to the point that he loses his stoic attitude when she's in danger. But Teddie seems to think it as a paternal protectiveness, while the others have the romantic vibe from it.
Bonus Boss: In the first playtrough, there are multiple battles against Elizabeth and one battle against Margaret (which unlocks every one's Ultimate Personas). In New Game+, there is a battle against Elizabeth, Margaret and Theodore at the same time and one where you fight against Elizabeth who is possessed by Zeus.
Boring but Practical: Stationary FOEs can be used as a means to increase the Party Gauge. Simply sneak up on one from the sides/behind to get a Player Advantage, then have everyone attack the FOE to increase the gauge, but get the lowest-speed character to escape. Player Advantages allow the party to escape without fail on the first turn. Once you do escape, the Party Gauge will be increased from the attacks you inflicted, as well as gaining a bonus since the battle is over.
Brick Joke: Early on, you can come up with a silly name for your combined team of Persona users, in the vein of the Power Rangers and Super Sentai. In the endgame, when your team's morale is fraying with the strain of ascending the Clock Tower, you can invoke the team name to put a smile on everyone's faces and restore their energy.
Call Back: Like in Persona 1 and the Persona 2 duology, everyone on the coalition can enter the Velvet Room and, save for Zen and Rei, carry multiple Personas, not just the protagonists. Fuuka and Rise can also carry sub-Personas, which will still gain experience.
While it's also a gameplay mechanic of Etrian Odyssey itself, you can also play with up to five party members, which is true for P1 and both P2 games as well, as opposed to the four member parties of P3 and P4.
Canon Name: Subverted. Regardless of which protagonist you pick (P3 or P4), you have to name both in your file. There are no default names for either the first or second protagonist. Notably, the names what they have been called in the past (Minato Arisato, Makoto Yuuki, Yu Narukami, and Souji Seta) cannot be generated if you let the game select a random name for them (although Sakuya [朔也], the P3 protagonist's first name in The Weird Masquerade, is among the randomly generated names).
Interestingly enough, in the official character-specific Japanese trailers, the P3 protagonist and the P4 protagonist are named "Minato Arisato" and "Yu Narukami" respectively, contrary to how Atlus usually names them "P3 Hero" or "P4 Hero" in official trailers. Though in later trailers, this is changed to the usual P3/P4 Hero.
Clock Punk: The mysterious tower is filled with fantastical clockwork and gears.
S.E.E.S. have light blue for the Persona 3 protagonist, pink for Yukari, dark blue for Junpei, red for Akihiko, magenta for Mitsuru, green for Fuuka, yellow for Aigis, brown for Koromaru, orange for Ken, and purple for Shinjiro.
The Investigation Team have gray for the Persona 4 protagonist, orange for Yosuke, green for Chie, red for Yukiko, purple for Kanji, pink for Rise, yellow for Teddie, and light blue for Naoto.
Cross Over: The full casts of Persona 3 and Persona 4 end up becoming involved in the mystery of the Labyrinth.
Crutch Character: When Zen and Rei join, they have the highest HP and SP in the party. This is because they're balanced with the Persona-users with Sub-Personas equipped, and Sub Personas aren't unlocked just yet. In addition, they carry a well balanced skill set, including various elemental attacks, a party wide heal and can regen SP while walking, making them a staple early in the game due to their versatility. However, as the game advances, their SP regeneration will have trouble keeping up, the lack of a Sub-Persona slot means one less Sub-Persona will gain EXP, and they cannot equip skill cards.
Damn You, Muscle Memory: For those used to the Etrian Odyssey games, anyways. In EO, the X button zooms the map in and out, while the Y button opens the character menu. In PQ, it's the other way around.
The two protagonists. In their respective games, they both were Jack of All Stats charaters who used the power of the Wild Card, which let them use any Persona. In this game they're both locked into their starting Personas, meaning the P3 Hero specialises in Fire skills while the P4 hero uses Lightning. The P3 Hero's Orpheus also comes with a few major elemental weaknesses while the P4 Hero's Izanagi instead has a resistance and an immunity. To make up for this, the P3 Hero has higher stats overall.
The Dividual: Zen and Rei function as a single unit in gameplay, even taking up only one character slot.
Dolled-Up Installment: Subverted. While gameplay is largely similar to Etrian Odyssey, Persona's influence goes beyond the visuals and story. You have fixed characters and sub Sub-Personas rather than class system, a fusion system closer to a Shin Megami Tensei game than anything related to Etrian Odyssey, and elemental weaknesses play a HUGE role in combat in a way more similar to Persona. The characters also have a much larger presense in battles than in EO: while they're not visible during enemy attacks or when you're selecting their actions, they'll appear whenever they make an attack of any kind, as opposed to EO, where they're largely interchangeable outside of their movesets and the character sprite you chose for them during character creation is the only thing you see in the game.
Doomed by Canon: Since none of the events of this game are ever referred to in either P3 or P4, it's clear from the start that something will happen that will cause everyone to forget it occurred.
Door To Before: "Shortcuts" in dungeons allow you to freely travel through certain walls, but only open up when you've been to both sides. Most of them serve this purpose, making floors easier to navigate on repeat visits. There are also one-way ones introduced later.
Mitsuru notes that since the Investigation Team are from their future with no knowledge of the Dark Hour, it must mean that they will succeed at eradicating it. What they're not aware of, is the price that must be paid for their victory.
Foreshadowing: The opening song "Maze of Life" hints at the labyrinths being a metaphor for Rei's life and death.
Four Is Death: Four dungeons are foreshadowed in the opening sequence, and there are four locks on a pair of mysterious doors which appeared in the Velvet Room. The fourth dungeon reveals that a certain somebody is dead.
Hair-Raising Hare: The boss Best Friend (also known as Shadow Rei) is a large, demonic, white rabbit.
Harder Than Hard: The game has one in the form of Risky difficulty. The main differences are that you cannot change difficulty setting if you select it and you get a Game Over if your leader dies. Which means the final boss has to be defeated in 7 turns, because he hits the party with a countdown of instant death spell at the beginning of the fight.
Hero Antagonist: Theodore in the Meat Jelly Mystery. There was no real theft, and the jelly was actually squashed by accident. However, Theodore took Chie's threat that she would kill Yosuke if anything happened to it literally and changed the crime scene to make it look as if it was stolen by someone other than Yosuke.
Heroic Mime: In typical Shin Megami Tensei fashion, your chosen protagonist counts. Averted with the protagonist opposite the one you chose, who has his own lines.
Identity Amnesia: Zen and Rei do not remember who they are. Turns out Zen did it to Rei, while Zen's amnesia is self-inflicted.
Innocuously Important Episode: Remember the typhoon that put you out of action for a few days in Persona3, and led to the school cultural festival being cancelled? Turns out this game takes place during that time.
It's perfectly possible to get a Street-Pass entry of a save-file from during the period of the game when Rei has been removed from the party, spoiling that Zen eventually becomes a stand-alone party-member.
I Am Not Left-Handed: Parodied in one skit. In the third stratum of P4 route, P3 hero remarks the dungeon is especially obstructive, he might have to use his right eye. Yosuke latches at the idea said right eye is some kind of Magic Eye, only to be told that the dungeon is so dark and his Peek-a-Bangs only makes things harder.
In another sequence, when a super-shrunken Teddie gets a peek up Yukiko's skirt, Yukiko finally has enough of Teddie's perversion and squashes him flat underfoot.
Last Lousy Point: The 100% Map Completion chests require you to step on every map tile at least once... including those patrolled by F.O.Es, or those with traps. Fortunately the chest will actually show you which areas you're missing, but sometimes figuring out how to get to those tiles without provoking the F.O.Es is a puzzle in itself.
Lethal Chef: At one point in the P3 route, Yukiko and Shinjiro make cookies to cheer Rei up in the middle of the third stratum. Shinjiro's cookies are amazing, but Yukiko's cookies strike fear into everyone who looks at them. Naturally, Rei enjoys them. Rei gets Zen to try them too, but he takes one bite and goes catatonic. And then soon after, Rei passes out, too. Yosuke comments that Mystery Food X is now a delayed hallucinogenic, and Mitsuru says Yukiko's cooking technique could be used for combat purposes. If you know the plot twists of Persona Q, this means that Yukiko's cookies knocked out a ghost and the avatar of a Greek deity. If the rest of the cast ate the cookies, it's quite possible that they would have died.
If you picked the P4 route, the cast will be chased by an FOE in the fourth stratum instead. The group splits into a group for distracting the FOE, and one for attacking it - for which Naoto suggests to combine Fuuka's, Yukiko's, Rise's and Chie's cooking to use it as ammo for Zen's crossbow. It knocks out the FOE in one hit.
Naoto: I call this, "Mystery Food X: The Final Edition"...
Lethal Joke Character: Teddie's stats and movesets are abysmal in comparison to everybody else, but smart players can take advantage of his high luck and use sub-Personas equipped with multi-hit skills to get criticals and take advantage of the boost system. This strategy actually makes his extremely low Speed stat helpful, as him attacking last in rounds that he scores critical hits in means the enemy will have no opportunity to break him out of the Boosted State, making 0 Mana/HP cost for his next move guaranteed.
Zen and Rei can have a large variety of connected meanings in Japanese, none of which turn out to be the actual meanings of the names. It turns out that "Zen" is actually spelt "Zhn" and the full form of Rei's name is "Philé" - The greek words for "living" and "beloved".
Rei's real name, Niko can be read as "the second". As in "the second child" as Niko had an older relative.
An ironic example happens with Yuki, a friend of Niko. The first time she is brought up, her name is written as "there is hope"... on a card which she wrote to Niko after she died.
Money Sink: A meta example of sorts: while most other games with features that use the system-generated Play Coins only take up to 10 of them at most, you can blow close to 300 of them, the maximum amount of possible that takes at least a month of consecutive daily walking, on a single locked chest if you're feeling exceptionally lazy and don't want to map out the rest of the floor.
Mood Whiplash: After a colorful dungeon full of uplifting, lighthearted shenanigans, you are made to deal with Rei's Shadow and the revelation that she's the ghost of a sick girl who spent almost her life in Inaba Municipal Hospital and died of a botched surgery.
OOC Is Serious Business: The usually unflappable Mitsuru screams her head off when she faces the Deadly Doctor Shadows referencing Mitsuru being experimented on by scientists under her Grandfather in the backstory of Persona 3.
Mitsuru: STAY AWAAAAYY!!
Original Generation: Despite most of the cast being from Persona 3 and Persona 4, Zen and Rei are brand new characters who debuted in Q.
Reality-Breaking Paradox: One would assume characters from the year 2009 and the year 2011 meeting in a timeless margin-reality would cause this. It does. That's why their memories are erased and wiped clean of the game's events as soon as they step through the exit doors in the ending. The fear of causing one of these is also the reason Margaret forces herself to not tell Elizabeth about the P3 Hero's imminent death, even though she is close to spilling the beans a few times.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: The protagonists have a bit of this going on. They're both the calm, collectedleader-types; but the P4 hero has more assertive body language and is quite obviously "The Boss" of his crew, while the P3 hero leans more towards being The Quiet One and acts as the "pillar" of his team rather than leader. In the route where they can speak, P4 hero is more likely to make a quip, while P3 hero takes awhile to warm up. It goes to their teams too; Investigation Team's members take potshots at each other, more open about their secrets, and visibly laidback with it - while many of SEE's members are reserved, there's an air of professionalism between them, and even times where they're borderline hostile.
Ret Gone: In-universe, this is the fate of someone who dies in the margin. They'll be erased from existence altogether, as if they never existed. Such a fate awaits Rei near the end of the game, but the main characters risk themselves to prevent that from happening.
A bit subtle, but P4 hero always land on his feet after falling from great height unlike the others. Watch everyone's reaction after falling from a trapdoor in the "Soulmate" minigame; he's the only one beside the Velvet Room attendants who's not dazed from the fall.
Stealth Pun: That "Q" letter in the title is shorthand for meikyuu (迷宮), meaning labyrinth, in reference to how Sekaiju no Meikyuu, the Japanese title of the Etrian Odyssey series, is abbreviated as SQ. It also sounds similar to "cute" to reflect the characters' appearances.
Suddenly Voiced: The Persona 3 protagonist, who had no real spoken lines in his game, and didn't make any voiced appearances in any spin-off games either. Both characters are this at the end of their respective routes.
Super-Deformed: The entire cast appears as smaller, cuter versions of their regular appearances from Persona 3 and Persona 4.
Time Travel: The tower allows the cast of Persona 3 from 2009 and the cast of Persona 4 from 2 years later to meet and team up. Which is why the P3 hero and Shinjiro are still alive.
Rei will eat anything that has flavor, but she likes corn dogs most of all.
Marie seems to be making a habit of chewing bubble gum.
Traumatic Haircut: Only mentioned, but the bundle of hair found in the third dungeon is what remained of Niko's long, blonde hair after her head was shaved for a treatment. This also serves as a subtle way to scale the amount of time Niko had spent in treatment, since by the time she died her hair had grown back to almost reach down to the floor, meaning there must have been quite a few years between the shaving treatment and her death.
Unwitting Pawn: The casts of Persona 3 and 4 to Chronos. It drew all of them into the margin world in order to force them to go through the labyrinths and regain Zen's memories.